Secrets in Lace

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Excerpt # 2: The Spy I Loved. Dusty Miller.

Photo by Mom, (Wiki.)

(Editor's Note: This stuff will be edited. -- ed.)

Dusty Miller

Liam pulled up to the shoreline where a portage trail led up into a tall forest of pines and black spruce, a pink and grey outcropping of bald granite looming above that on a high angle.


“Good morning.”

Ian Spencer held the boat as Liam got out. Ian was another lone wolf.

“So you think you’ve found the damned thing?” Spencer snorted softly. “Or part of it. I guess that’s why they’re paying you the big bucks, eh?”

Ian was as Canadian as apple pie and Blue Jays baseball. He was lucky to be getting five hundred a day plus expenses. Holding dual citizenship, he’d worked in Britain for many years in what was euphemistically called private security. During the real IRA years, some of those people were as tough and skilled at counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence as anyone else.

Ian’s resume was extensive.

Liam liked him well enough and he seemed tough, capable and confident.

“I’ve got a major part of her. Almost a certainty.” His morning briefing had said (essentially) that it looked good according to analysis and why not bring it up.

The radioactivity count indicated possibly the motors, or at least some part of the reactor. Brief exposure would give an increased chance of cancer later in life. The suit would only partially shield him. Getting it out of the mud would take some work.

It was the price one paid for an interesting life.

Ian went back into the bushes and dragged the first of two long duffel bags out onto the bank. Liam stowed the first one in the bottom of his boat, well out of sight as Spencer went back for the other one.

He came out of the woods, gasping and cursing.

“Jesus. I sure hope this is worth it to you.” He cleared his throat and held out a hand, palm up. “What, no tip?”

Liam just nodded and helped him get it aboard. Ian gave a sour grin and bent to it.

Kimball looked up.

“I’ve asked you to stop calling me that.” The tone was absent.

Ian shook his head.

There was another boat, a mile ahead of them up the river, and Liam wanted to get this done. There was a bend in the river and some overhanging branches, but with the powerful motors on the bass boats in particular, they could be on them in a minute, a minute and a half at best.

Ian stepped back as Liam dropped the second bag and shoved it with a good kick into the centerline. 

He had one foot in still in the water. He hopped into the boat with alacrity and Ian shoved the prow off the beach as he reached for the steering wheel and starter button.

Ian had undergone a long hike, portaging back and forth, to bring in all of the equipment. He was looking at another long walk back to his Land Rover. Shorthanded as they were, his partner was home watching the watchers.

Hopefully Liam could pull this off, while the opposition was presumably in disarray.

Ian began walking up the steep trail with barely a look back, almost enjoying himself now that the hard work was done. Sooner or later it would all have to come out again, of course.

There were places he needed to be. The sound of Kimball’s motor droned and faded and he took one last look back, seeing nothing but a patch of blue and a sea of treetops.

Almost anything could happen next. If he didn’t pay attention, he’d walk smack-dab into a mother black bear with a couple of cubs, or, what was almost worse—a big mess of poison ivy.

He’d had it once as a Boy Scout, and it was an experience he would never forget. People got it on their hands and sooner or later you had to pee.

Blackflies, mosquitoes and other biting insects buzzed and whirred and clouded his vision. Once off the lake, or off the trail or away from your camp, you just couldn’t get enough bug spray sometimes. 

With ankle length boots, high socks, and sticking to the trails, he’d been lucky to avoid poison ivy. 

There were also poison sumac and poison oak to contend with, although he’d never been able to tell the difference. Sumacs and oaks all looked the same to him, and poison ivy was one of those variable plants. You never quite knew what you were looking at. With the temperature near thirty Celsius, and with the humidity climbing, he’d failed to bring enough water. His canteen was almost dry.

The trail just went up and up and then up again some more.

His vehicle was a good thirty-five hundred metres from the water. He’d practically busted a nut getting Liam’s gear to him. His lower legs, back and shoulders just ached. When he finally rounded the last corner, he paled to see what someone had done to his vehicle. He stopped dead, jaw open. 

Every light, signal, and sheet of glass had been smashed. Every panel had been kicked in and dented, scratched, scraped and gouged…the mirrors had been kicked off as well. The license plate was missing from the front end.

“Shit.” Reaching for his phone, he checked his watch and then took a quick look up at the sun, wondering how far Liam might have gotten in the interval.

That movement saved his life. A rotten branch, blue-grey with lichens, exploded inches from his left ear and it became apparent that someone was shooting at him with a silenced weapon.

Birds twitted and cheeped as he froze in shock for a split second.


Jesus, I’m lucky to still be alive—

With no idea of where the shots were coming from, it was all he could do to pick a direction and fling himself into the nearest underbrush, clawing at his own little gun.

Smack-smack-smack…no more.

Since he still had the time to wonder if the phone was smashed, it would seem he was still alive.

He was really sweating, now.

It did kind of put the mosquitoes in perspective, though. The nearest help was an hour away. To talk on the phone was to give away his position, to try and text a message was to lose that all-important focus.

Whoever was out there couldn’t see him at this exact moment. The shots had come from off to the right, and the trail, the logging road, led straight ahead.

It looked like a ticklish tactical picture, with the number of enemy combatants unknown, at least to the inexperienced eye.

His next move was obvious enough. At least to him. Ian drew his weapon and began wriggling towards whoever was out there.

The key was stealth and self-control.

The thing was to see the other guy first.

One shot, one kill, asshole.

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